If you're into spinning your own yarn, you probably already know what a blending board is. Very much like a drum carder (that you can see in my previous blog post), it has a cloth with sharp teeth designed to comb and align fibres to make them easier to work with. You add fibres to it until the cloth is full, and then you take them out in a special way that I'll explain below.
The main difference between a drum carder and a blending board is that the latter is flat, so instead of creating batts with them, you're creating something called rolags: rolled-up tubes of wool that you can then spin on a wheel or spindle.
Let me begin by saying that having friends in the fibre business can be really bad for your wallet. In the particular case of this blog post, I speak of persuasive friends who enable you into buying new (very expensive) gadgets.
Meet the Strauch Mad Batt'r Double Wide carder.
Last week I received an email from my Guild informing me that Mudchute Farm was holding an agricultural event during the weekend, and would some spinners be available to demonstrate their skills?
I'm not normally one to jump at this sort of request (I'm not an introvert but I'm not exactly Miss Social either) but I decided to make something out of my weekend and say yes. It didn't hurt that they were offering us fleece in return...
After speaking with Hazel, our guild liaison, it was decided that I would show up on Sunday. I was super responsible and wrote down a list of all the stuff I needed, and added to it after asking for help on my Facebook and Instagram. I even packed the day before! I must be growing up.
These past few weeks have been very fun for me in terms of fibre dyeing. I've been busy slowly stocking the shop with new colourways and new yarn bases to make the most of the Christmas season - the perfect excuse to play with fluff.
Since the yarn part of my business is still quite new, I don't usually dye more than one skein the same colour at once, but I keep good notes to make sure I can repeat colourways in the future (hint hint). In my dye sessions I came up with a few new colourways that I'm very smitten with. Allow me to introduce you to them.
I've always had a soft spot for singles yarns. I just love their soft structure, and it reminds me a lot of hand spun yarn for some reason (I've always been very partial to hand spun singles).
Needless to say, when I got my hands on this new base I just had to play with it.
For this base I decided to stick to semi-solids, for no particular reason. I love red, so that was naturally my first choice to dye, and "Sangria" was born. To achieve the depth you see in the picture, with different shades and tints, I had to kettle dye it in three different phases. It's definitely more work, but so worth it! Click here to see the listing for this yarn.
Next was "Emerald City." I have a special obsession with teal, and have been wanting to create the perfect shade for a while. I really, really like how this turned out. The photo shows the colour as a bit more on the blue side, but it's really a tad more green. It's beautiful to my eyes and I hope you agree with me! Here is the link for the Emerald City singles superwash merino yarn.
Now, an only child:
Merino/Silk Sock Yarn (one-of-a-kind).
This colourway has an interesting story. A while back, I was looking for a yarn/fibre supplier and there was a company I was interested in purchasing from, but they didn't do samples for prospective customers; basically, if I wanted to find out whether I liked their fibre, I'd have to order a full skein of each base I wanted to try (they were nice enough to allow me to order at wholesale prices, though). This merino/silk was one of the yarns I ordered.
When I dyed it the first time, I was still very much in the beginning of my dyeing adventure. I played around with some dye mixtures, hand painted the skein, and was happy... until it dried. If you're a beginner dyer, always keep this rule in mind: colours will always appear deeper when wet. When it started drying, I wasn't too keen on what I achieved. I still listed it in my shop (silly me). After there were no takers, I decided I'd overdye this skein when inspiration struck. Took me a while, but one day I just looked at it and knew what to do.
What you see above is the end result! Bright, happy colours that make my goth heart sing. Unfortunately I don't have the "before" photos handy, but I can look them up if anyone's interested.
In case you're wondering how I name my colourways, it depends on my mood and source of inspiration, but in this case it was the yellow/green neon that made me think of fireflies (and exactly where the light is located on their bodies).
What is the best way to present a hand dyed yarn with different colour sections? Is it to show it with the original dye blocks, or is prettier reskeined? (If you're unfamiliar with the term, that's when the skein is wound into a ball and then skeined again.)
I actually asked my Facebook and Instagram followers a while ago about this, and opinions were quite literally divided - roughly half liked yarn with the colour blocks intact, others preferred the reskeined look. Since there's no way to please everyone and I only had one skein, curiosity got the best of me and I decided on the latter. I wanted to see how the colours looked all jumbled!
If you're selling your hand dyed yarn and wonder about the same, maybe taking photos of the yarn before and after reskeining and showing both in your shop images can be a sort of compromise. Or, maybe dye more than one skein and sell them both ways, and see what your customers prefer.
"Firefly Butt" has been sold in the meantime, which makes me a very happy dyer.
Do I like, or don't I?
I just mentioned a dye job I didn't love that I managed to turn around, but what happens when you're unsure of your results? That's a harder nut to crack for me.
These two superwash BFL braids below give me a lot of mixed feelings. Believe it or not, I used the exact same colours dyeing each, but look at how different they came out! Proof that good note taking doesn't always guarantee the same results (especially with wool tops/roving).
My intention was to create a colourway that reminded me of Autumn. I saw a picture of stunning fallen maple leaves in various stages of transformation and used that as inspiration. I planned for each colour I wanted to recreate and went to work.
Now, before I go ahead, look at the image below. See how the colours are mostly warm, with pops of turquoise and green? That was a successful "Fallen Leaves" dye job, such as I imagined it. Incidentally, it was also my first attempt. This is a great example of how differently yarn and fibre dye, to my great frustration...
I haven't listed the BFL braids in my shop because I'm just not sure about them. The image on the right is quite nice, so that one will probably be available, but the muted one I might just card into a batt with other colours and see what happens.
Just when I was getting ready to throw in the towel...
...This happened. By suggestion of Nicole of Frost Yarn I decided to stop dyeing fibre on the pot and try a roasting pan instead. I bought a rather expensive pan that can go in the over as well as the hob, but I stopped moaning about how much I spent once I saw how this lovely came out.
I named it Fruit Loops, but in hindsight it should have been M&Ms. Ah, well. I'm just so happy with the colour saturation and control the roasting pan gave me. Take note: it's not always your technique, sometimes it's the materials you're using. There are no "muddy" dye spots, I can see each section clear and beautifully... Love!
Fruit Loops superwash BFL top is currently available in my shop.
That's it from me on this post, I hope you enjoyed following my dyeing shenanigans. As per usual, if you have any questions, I am happy to help. Feel free to message me or leave a comment in the section below with your thoughts/comments.
If you're in the States, happy Thanksgiving to you!
You might have read how I accidentally purchased a new spinning wheel a few weeks ago. Living in a small flat that also doubles as a work space for two artists, I can't say I have a lot of extra room to keep three wheels around, so one of them had to go - sadly, it was time to say goodbye to my lovely Bliss DT.
The Bliss is a wonderful wheel, a true all-rounder and perfect for beginners. Made by Louet for Woolmakers in the Netherlands, it comes flat-packed so you have to assemble it (I used to call it my IKEA wheel) and is made of MDF, so it's not very expensive. It has a built-in Lazy Kate (that's where you keep the bobbins, on the left, and use it for plying two or more strands of yarn) that's very handy and easy to use. I think I've yet to meet an owner that doesn't like their Bliss.
The only downside to this wheel is the size of its bobbins - I needed them to be a tad larger (ok, double!) so I could make longer art yarns, and this lady just doesn't come with any jumbo settings, nor will it in the foreseeable future. Although these bobbins do take up more fibre than most "traditional" ones, it just wasn't enough for me. So I set about finding it a new home, which happened ver quickly.
The person I sold the Bliss to is a fibre friend who doesn't live near me, so I had to make sure I wrapped this lady really well to avoid any accidents along the way. After this, I now understand why most people only accept local collection!
I'll have to credit my other half for helping me out with this. He was the most patient man and I should give him a shout out - check out Emanuel de Sousa's mad painting skills.
After buying tape and bubble wrap, we set about making sure that wheel wasn't moving under all the cushioning material. We might have gone a bit overboard, but every part was wrapped tight.
We also had to frankenstein the box - it was much larger than we needed, so we cut it in half and proceeded to put it back together as tight as we could. Then we decided to play Tetris with some bits of cardboard we had around, and maybe a bicycle helmet box as well. This wheel was definitely not moving inside its cocoon!
I'm a little ashamed to admit a whole roll of tape was used (and then some). See the title plastic tube thing on top of the box? That's right, I forgot to include it in the parcel. I wish I could say this never happens, but forgetting something (usually the Thank-You-For-Your-Purchase personalised letter for my customers) tends to happen frequently. I blame the packaging frenzy.
The hard work paid out, the Bliss arrived safe and sound to its destination and the new owner is now getting acquainted with her new equipment. I hope she spins lots of yarn and loves every minute of it!
Have you ever sent a difficult-to-pack parcel? What sort of packaging material did you use? My most unusual material ever is popcorn for filler...
About three weeks ago, a friend informed me she was selling her spinning wheel, and did I know of anyone interested?
Telling a fellow spinner there's a wheel out there for grabs is akin to telling a desperate single person about a gorgeous bachelor - maybe they're not for you, maybe you won't even like each other, but it can't hurt to ask their name and find out what they look like, you know, just in case.
I already had two wheels, I certainly didn't need a new one, but this just happened to be a model I'd been coveting for a while: a Lendrum DT. I couldn't resist giving this lady a go. Turns out, I really liked her. Oh boy.
This Canadian scotch-tension wheel created by Gord Lendrum folds up nicely for travel (there's even a special carrier bag for it as an extra). Weighing only 14 lbs, or 6.3 kg, it's very easy to carry around. The flyer head comes off easily by twisting a simple knob, and you can easily store the wheel under a bed if you're pressed for space.
This particular model came with a regular flyer and a jumbo (with a large orifice), a tensioned Lazy Kate, 4 regular bobbins and one large, plus two drive bands (one for each flyer head). Ratios for the regular flyer are 6:1, 8:1 and 10:1, and the jumbo flyer's are 5:1, 7:1 and 9:1.
The first thing I have to say about the Lendrum is that, to me, it looks really good design-wise. I've always been fond of the modern castle-type wheels, so this ticks all the right buttons. It's simple, yet elegant. It's also very sturdy, made from solid maple wood. The scotch tension is easily set by twisting another small knob near the bobbin and, also on the flyer, the orifice hook has its own home in a little hole created just for it (very handy if you tend to lose small objects like I do).
I decided to test her again at home by spinning some fibre, as you do. I had some uninteresting wool top I'd purchased a while ago and never felt inspired to spin, so I got my drum carder out and made an art batt with some more wool in different colours, plus added sparkle and recycled sari silk.
When I tried the Lendrum DT with the regular flyer and some simple wool top at my friend's house, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to treadle and how smoothly it turned. Not that I expected it to go any differently, but it's like finding out that good-looking guy at the bar is also a well-manered conversationalist...
When I switched to the large flyer to use the large bobbin however, it was a completely different story. It was much harder to treadle, there was a definite resistance and I kept readjusting the scotch tension to see if it made any difference (it did, but only slightly). Honestly, I'm not too keen on using the large flyer regularly and wouldn't have kept the Lendrum if it spun like this throughout. Sticking to the analogy, it's like finding out the good-looking nice guy lives with his mother - could be a deal breaker for some...
This wheel comes with two drive bands (that's the cord that goes around the large wheel and the flyer, making the bobbin go around as you treadle): one for the regular bobbins and another for the large ones. This is another thing I wasn't too keen on, because you're supposed to use a plier to change drive bands, and if you like spinning fine yarns one day and chunky the other, you'll find yourself having to change that band a lot.
Having said this, I went for a great suggestion I read online somewhere: just keep both drive bands on the wheel! By doing this you'll only need to use the pliers once to get them on, and because both bands will always be on the wheel, you'll be able to choose which one you want in the spur of the moment without any complications. I just keep the one I'm not using folded and tied with a bit of string, and I'm good to go.
There's also one last thing that can put people off the Lendrum: there's no instructions manual. Although this shouldn't be a problem with more experienced spinners, I'm sure new spinners would appreciate some guidance, particularly when it comes to the existence of two drive bands and their purpose (I myself only realised the reason for them by watching a demo video on YouTube. "You mean it's not an extra one for when the other breaks?")
I did a second test run, consisting of core spinning, simply because I love the technique and it makes the fibre go a long way. The end result was pretty satisfactory, in the sense that the wheel did its job and my work didn't suck. I'd have liked more contrast in the fibre, but that's another issue.
I then spun two braids of superwash top onto two small bobbins and the Lendrum DT did great, as expected. I switched to the jumbo bobbin again to ply and it got pretty full, as you can judge by the picture above. I've come to terms with my needing a bit more (literal) legwork to keep the wheel going with the jumbo setup, but I'm still very happy with my purchase.
Now, onto the furry part of the post.
The friend who sold me the wheel was also looking for someone to adopt her cat; she is spending a lot of time abroad and this kitty needs a lot of attention, so an ideal situation would be for her to find someone who spent a lot of time at home and didn't mind a cuddly feline.
I've missed having a pet. I left my cats back home with my mother when I moved to the UK, thinking it wouldn't be long before I collected them, but life had other plans. After two of them passed away and only Squish remained, my mother and I decided he was too old to travel at 15, so he'll be staying with her for the rest of his life (he's very happy there). This made me a very cat-deprived person, so when the opportunity presented for me to foster this cat, I jumped at it - what better way to get my furry fix and enjoy some purrs for a while?
So... meet Marshmallow (Mallow for short).
Mallow is a beautiful Serengeti cat. Her markings are gorgeous and her fur is so soft I often find myself stroking her head absentmindedly for hours. She's also very fond of my lap (but my legs need to be covered, she's not fond of bare skin!) and takes very long power naps. She doesn't "talk" much and, saving the absolute best part for last, she doesn't care one bit for fibre! I really mean not one bit: I have wool top and yarn all around the house and this girl shows no interest in it at all. How perfect is she for this household?
You can obviously tell Mallow stole my heart. Can you guess the rest of the story? Since she was available for adoption, and after making sure her personality traits were constant and a good match for us, my partner and I decided to keep her for good. Who were we kidding, she had us at "meow."
Do you have a pet? How are they around fibre? And how do they behave when you're crafting? I'd love to find out if I just adopted the only fibre-immune kitty in the world...
If you own a Lendrum DT, or have tried one before, share your thoughts on it in the comments section.